Following the release of Inclusion BC's report on restraint and seclusion in BC's schools, BC Teachers' Federation President Glen Hansman expressed support for the report's recommendations to increase the amount of support and in-service training teachers, support staff, and principals receive to ensure all students, especially those with special needs, get the care and education they need.
“BC teachers fully support inclusive education for students with special needs,” said Hansman. “Making sure schools are supportive and inclusive of diversity, in all its forms, helps teach children and youth empathy, kindness, and understanding.”
Hansman acknowledged that inclusion has its challenges and requires appropriate resources, in-service training, and student-specific supports. At the BCTF Annual General Meeting in March, the Federation re-affirmed its commitment to inclusive education with a new Policy Statement on Inclusion.
“BC teachers have said for years that our schools are under-resourced. We can't meet the specific needs of all students if there are too many kids in a classroom or there are no specialists working with children and youth who need extra one-on-one or small group support.
“The kind of concerns reported in Inclusion BC's report do not reflect the public education system we want, nor what happens in the vast majority of schools on a day-to-day basis. Restraint and seclusion should only be used in specific circumstances to protect the safety and well-being of students, teachers, and staff.
“The challenge teachers face while working with students who may be prone to physical outbursts, like hitting, kicking, spitting, or biting, is that safety plans are not always properly communicated, or staff are not given adequate in-service training. For example, an on-call teacher coming into a classroom for the first time should be briefed by their employer on the safety plan and given the support they need. That's not always happening, and it sets the teacher and student up for potential difficulties.”
Hansman said he is worried that the ongoing teacher shortage in BC is making matters worse. When a classroom teacher is home sick, there may not always be an on-call teacher available to fill in. In many cases, it is a specialist, like a special education teacher, getting redeployed to that classroom. That leaves a child who needs consistent specialized support losing their program that day. Hansman called that disruptive and unfair.
“To ensure students with special needs get the support, care, and education they deserve, school districts need to invest more in staff in-service training and ensure our schools are properly equipped to do the work. Access to this kind of in-service training must be available in all regions of the province, not just the Lower Mainland, and be relevant to the teachers' classroom assignment.”
BCTF policy statement on inclusive education for students with special needs
The BCTF Is committed to inclusion of all students in a fully funded universal public education system, and promotes the following principles with regard to the inclusion of students with special needs:
1. Every student can learn, and every student is entitled to an appropriate education and full range of education services in their community.
2. The Ministry of Education must provide appropriate funding to school districts to ensure proper supports are in place for all students with special needs and their teachers.
3. Some students require differentiated or adapted programs, placements, and/or supports; full-time placement in a regular classroom may not best meet the needs of some students.
4. Special education services must be made available regardless of the age of the student, including children, youth, and adult learners.
5. Assessment by the appropriate professional of a student's special needs must be made available in a timely manner by school districts, and be done at the earliest age possible.
6. Appropriate supports (including release time and in-service) must be made available for the teachers involved.
7. Appropriate facilities, equipment, and assisting personnel must be provided by the school district.
8. Appropriate levels of assisting personnel must be provided for feeding, toileting, changing clothes, and supervising students with special needs, where applicable.
9. In-service related to inclusion of students with special needs should be accessible to all teachers in all school districts, including TTOCs.
10. Learning specialist teachers, not the classroom teacher, will be responsible for developing
individualized education programs for students.
11. The school district must ensure that appropriate numbers of learning specialist teachers are available in each school.
12. The school's administrative officer must establish and clearly communicate to all school personnel emergency response procedures that specifically address the safety of students with special needs.
13. The Ministry of Education, in consultation with the education partners, must regularly review Ministry policies and procedures regarding the inclusion of students with special needs in regular classrooms in order to provide greater support for these students and their teachers.
14. Special education services must not be treated like dispensable luxuries by school districts facing financial pressures or staffing shortages.